Gilead

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Unfathomable Forgiveness
In the novel Gilead, author Marilynne Robinson offers insight into the challenging process of forgiveness through the character, John Ames. As the narrator and protagonist, John provides the reader with an intriguing, first-person perspective on the difficult development from bitterness to forgiveness in his relationship with Jack Boughton, otherwise known as John Ames Boughton, the narrator’s namesake and godson. However, John does not make this progression by his own merit. First of all, he gains perspective into several situations that Jack faced in his life as an adult, and feels empathy for the man. Secondly, John receives wise guidance from his wife, Lila, thereby realizing that because Jack is an ordinary man like any other, he is in need of grace. And finally, through experiencing an abundance of spiritual direction, John realizes that because God shows mercy to Jack, he too must follow that loving example. In Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead, John Ames reaches a place of forgiveness and reconciliation with Jack Boughton only by opening his heart to empathizing with Jack’s situations, by following the guidance of his wife, and by observing and obeying the example of Jesus Christ.

At an early point in the novel, the reader is given insight into the dissention John Ames feels towards Jack Boughton when he is told that Jack plans on returning home after several years of absence. John says in his narrative, “I don’t know how one boy could have caused so much disappointment without ever giving anyone any grounds for hope” (Robinson, 72). John’s words carry with them a degree of irritation that enables the reader to discern his dislike for Jack. However, one may begin to notice a shift in John’s attitude towards Jack as he continues to narrate his story, showing an increasing awareness that he must forgive Jack. This development occurs in small increments through several episodes in the story, but the biggest and most incredible...
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